7 Tips for Choosing a Great Primary Care Physician
Here are Better Health Advisors' tips for finding a PCP you like and trust.
A primary care physician (PCP) plays a vital role in keeping you healthy, so it’s important to have a good one. You could do a search on your health insurance plan’s website, pick a doctor near you, and hope for the best—but keep in mind that your PCP will play a role in most of your healthcare decisions. If you only see your physician for routine appointments, you may not know if they’re a good fit for you until you’re in a crisis. Don’t wait until then to make sure you’ve made a smart choice. Here are Better Health Advisors' tips for finding a PCP you like and trust:
- Prioritize your preferences. Do you feel more comfortable with a male or female doctor? Someone who is accessible if you need a same-day appointment? A strong communicator? Someone who values complementary medicine? Keep your preferences in mind as you look for a PCP. Is the doctor compassionate? Stanford researchers found that "having a doctor who is warm and reassuring actually improves your health."
- Consider which specialties are important to you. Your PCP is the doctor you’ll go to for routine illnesses, regular screenings, and for referrals to specialists, but he or she may also have a particular focus. You may want a gastroenterologist who specializes in gut health or a geriatrician who works with seniors.
- Ask people you trust to give you referrals. Talk to friends, family, or a health advisor about the kind of PCP you're looking for, and ask if they know any doctors who might meet your needs. If you’re close with your neighbors, ask them for recommendations, too, because they’re likely to use providers who are located nearby.
- Check which doctors are “in-network” on your insurance plan. Once you have a few names in mind, login to your insurance company’s website, and search the provider directory to see if those doctors participate in your insurance plan. You can also call each doctor’s office directly to confirm that they take your plan. (If you decide to see a doctor who isn’t part of your plan, you could face higher “out-of-network” charges or denied claims.)
- Check the doctor’s location and office hours. While proximity shouldn’t be your only reason for choosing a doctor, it’s definitely worth considering. If you expect to go to appointments during your work day, you might prefer a PCP near your job. If you work nine to five and it’s not easy to get away during the day, look for a doctor who has office hours at night or on the weekends.
- Find out if they’re accepting new patients. Even if your health insurance company’s website says a particular PCP is accepting new patients, that information may not be up to date. It’s worth calling the doctor’s office to be sure. If the provider is at a large hospital or clinic, try to get to an operator to be transferred to that department.
- Interview your new doctor. When you visit a doctor for the first time, here are a few things to consider:
- Was it easy to make an appointment?
- How soon were they able to see you?
- Does the staff seem organized?
- When you arrive for your appointment, how long do you have to wait to see the doctor?
- Where did the doctor train?
- Is the doctor board certified?
- Does the doctor listen to you and communicate clearly?
- Does the doctor have admitting privileges at the best hospitals in the area?
- Will you have access to your medical information online?
- Can you email the doctor with questions?
Need More Guidance?
At Better Health Advisors, we use our knowledge of the healthcare industry, our wide personal network, and other resources to recommend great doctors, including PCPs and specialists. We will work with you to determine if your particular circumstances make a concierge doctor a smart choice.
BHA is a valuable addition to your healthcare team. We relay key information to your doctor between appointments, follow up on your aftercare plans, and coordinate with your other practitioners. We’re here to answer your questions and make sure you understand everything the doctors say to you during your visit.
If we can help you simplify the process of choosing a doctor, reach out and let us know.